British government minsters and representatives of French energy company EDF are expected to agree a deal later this week to keep open a coal-fired power station that was supposed to have shut last year.

The move aims to strengthen domestic energy security in the face of soaring global prices, and amid continued concern about the impact of the conflict in Ukraine.

The West Burton A facility in Nottinghamshire was opened in 1966 and should have closed down last year, but had its life extended until September 2022. To keep it operational as a backup facility this winter, providing power for around 1.5 million homes, that date has now been put back again, to March 2023.

As recently as March this year, when The Times newspaper reported that EDF had been approached about an extension to the site’s life, a government spokesman was quoted by the BBC as saying it had “made no formal request to EDF” over the issue, and that despite concern about fuel emissions targets, coal-fired power stations were “ultimately a commercial matter”, and that the government would be “setting out plans to boost our long-term energy resilience and domestic supply shortly”.

In the ordinary course of events, the plant would be fueled by coal from Russia, but now EDF is working on obtaining alternative supplies from South Africa, Australia, or the United States.

The Financial Times reports that the finer points of the deal are still being negotiated, but it is expected to cost tens of millions of pounds, with that weight being carried by domestic bills, which have already rocketed this year, and are forecast to go even higher later in the year.

Until 2013, Britain’s biggest source of electricity generation was coal, but now there are just three coal-burning power stations left in the United Kingdom.

In February 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the government’s intention to bring forward the end of the use of coal for energy generation by 12 months, to October 2024.

He explained that in 2020, just 1.8 percent of the UK’s electricity generation had come from coal, with 43.1 percent coming from renewable sources, and 16.1 percent from nuclear generation.

A government spokesperson said ending the use of coal by October 2024 “remains our firm commitment”, but extending the use of West Burton A “is a welcome step in further boosting our energy security and domestic supply”.

As long ago as last December, before the Ukraine conflict had begun, a group of academics known as the UK Energy Research Centre said a review of the country’s energy security policy was needed, and was quoted by The Guardian newspaper as saying ministers had been “complacent about the supply of gas for too long”.

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